Joe Paolino is not running for Providence mayor, but he just polled the race

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino confirmed Monday he recently commissioned a comprehensive poll on major city issues, including the 2018 race for mayor.

Paolino, a Democrat who served as mayor between 1984 and 1990, told Eyewitness News he “wanted to conduct a study of how the local community responds to questions about the quality of life in our capital city and to learn about how these issues are affecting the business community.”

He admitted he also included his name in questions about the mayoral race, but said he has no intent on seeking to recapture the city’s top job.

“Since I am conducting the poll, I couldn’t help but put my name in for good fun,” Paolino said in a prepared statement. “I am not running for any office, but it is well known that I have been concerned about local issues that affect our community, such as homelessness, quality of education, policing, and the revitalization of our downtown. I look forward to reviewing the results of this research and understanding more about the diverse opinions of those living in our city.”

Paolino said he hasn’t reviewed the results of the survey, but five individuals who took the 20-minute poll between Dec. 5 and Dec. 10 told Eyewitness News the questions included a mix of political and policy questions, mostly focusing on Providence.

The survey tested the favorability ratings of Mayor Jorge Elorza, Paolino, state Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, state Reps. John Lombardi and Ray Hull, acting City Council President Sabina Matos, Councilman David Salvatore, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Myrth York, former mayoral candidate Brett Smiley, former City Council president and mayoral candidate Michael Solomon and community advocate Kobi Dennis.

The poll included head-to-head election questions in hypothetical races pitting Elorza, a first-term Democrat, against Paolino, Smiley, Goodwin, Solomon and Dennis.

Dennis, a Democrat, is the only person in the survey who has publicly announced plans to challenge Elorza in a primary next year. Lombardi, Hull and Salvatore have all said they are considering running for mayor, but none has officially entered the race.

Other questions in the poll focused on crime, homelessness, panhandling and the future of both the Superman building downtown and St. Joseph’s Hospital, which Paolino owns. (Paolino has said he wants to convert the hospital into a center for social services and housing.)

Another question in the poll: How would Elorza fare against former Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr.? (Cianci, who lost to Elorza in 2014, died last year.)

The survey also tested the job performance of city’s last five mayors, Elorza, Angel Taveras, David Cicilline, Cianci and Paolino. Paolino also asked several questions about the governor’s race, focusing on Gov. Gina Raimondo, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

There has been no public polling on the city of Providence since Elorza took office, so it’s unclear how city voters view his first term as mayor. Elorza commissioned a poll himself in 2015 and again in recent months, but he has not released any results.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan